Athletes Stand Up for New York and Ferguson

December 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Cheers to Professional Athletes Who Are Protesting the Grand Jury Decisions

This past weekend, professional athletes stood in solidarity with those protesting the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who murdered Eric Garner in New York City.

Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose. Photo: Twitter

Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush. Photo: Twitter

Johnson Bademosi
Johnson Bademosi. Photo: Twitter

On Saturday night, Derrick Rose of the NBA Chicago Bulls came out on the court during warm-ups for his game against the Golden State Warriors wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt, the final words of Eric Garner as he was being murdered by the New York Police. His photo was tweeted all over the internet and was also seen by Derrick’s 2.1 million twitter followers.

Then on Sunday Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions, and Cleveland Browns defensive back, Johnson Bademosi wrote in large letters, “I Can’t Breathe” on their warm-up shirts when they came out to warm-up for their games.

But that was not all. A week after 5 of his St. Louis Rams teammates came out of the tunnel with their hands up, signifying their protest of the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who murdered Michael Brown, Davin Joseph wrote “I Can’t Breathe” on his shoes he wore during the pregame warm-ups. He said, “I feel like we should support what we feel is right. We should always have an opinion of sticking up for people who don’t have a voice. He also tweeted an image of his shoes with the message, “R.I.P. Eric Garner.” Fellow Ram player Jared Cook had it written on his wrist tape, and Ram wide receiver Kenny Britt, who was one of those who raised his hands coming out of the tunnel last week, wrote on his shoes several names of those who were murdered by cops and vigilantes, including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

On Sunday, two University of Oregon basketball players held their hands up during the national anthem. Dwayne Benjamin and Jordan Bell held their hands up at chest level during the anthem, and then, according to The Oregonian, “one appeared to frisk the other as the team’s starting lineup was announced.” (  

Jeers to Charles Barkley and Cheers to Those Who Took Him On

Charles Barkley, former NBA player and an outspoken NBA commentator on TNT, came out and supported the grand jury decision not to indict the cop who murdered Michael Brown. He called the protestors in Ferguson “scumbags” and said that “they are not Black people. In an outrageous statement, he said that cops are not murdering Black youth at an unprecedented rate and he supported more cops in the Black community, by saying that “if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the Wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods.” Fox Network and the Tea Party were falling all over themselves in praising Barkley. Previously, Barkley supported the jury’s not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin.

Barkley was immediately blasted by other athletes. Etan Thomas, former NBA player, wrote an open letter to Barkley, “Once you were not afraid to ask that all-important question: “Who’s afraid of a large black man?” Tragically, it now seems like the answer might be you.” ( Thomas takes on Barkley calling the protestors “scumbags” Thomas says, “...there is a reason people are hostile. There have been fourteen black teens killed by police since Mike Brown. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice killed in Cleveland, 14-year-old Cameron Tillman in Louisiana, VonDerrit Myers Jr. not far from where Mike Brown was killed, 18-year-old Jeffrey Holden in Kansas City.”

He goes on, “In addition, a never-ending reel of police brutality and beatings is constantly shown on social media. And, in most cases, fails to result in any type of punishment for the cop. They typically are put on paid administrative leave (as was Darren Wilson for over 100 days), which is in essence a paid vacation, and yet you have the nerve to praise the police as a whole for their work in the black community ?”

Thomas tells Barkley, “You have to take into account the everyday living and existing in a state of inequality that has led to the riots. The outrage and disgust of feeling helpless. A community who sees no justice.” He then quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, who said “A riot is the voice of the unheard.”

Kenny Smith, former NBA player and Barkley’s commentator partner on the TNT basketball show also wrote an open letter to Barkley and posted it on A For the Win. The letter was mostly a love-fest for Barkley, but Smith did raise something that really upset Barkley when he wrote, “The question must be asked: Why is there so much distrust in the police and the legal system from the African American community? Without manifesting what the effects of slavery still have today, December 1st still marks only 59 years since Rosa Parks sat on that memorable bus. Many of our parents and grandparents have lived through those times and have passed those stories on to all of us. Those civil rights changes were at one time the law! They were not illegal.” 

In the next TNT basketball show, Barkley, Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal had a 10 minute discussion about Smith’s open letter. Barkley could not deal with Smith and others evoking slavery as a way to show how America is today. He then went on to show his total ignorance of this subject by saying that he did not really know much about slavery, except what his grandmother told him about it. The fact, Charles, is that “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” (Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:1)

John Carlos, who along with Tommie Smith protested the oppression of Black people by raising a black-gloved fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics, gave several interviews blasting Charles Barkley. In the interview on CNN program Legal View, Ashley Banfield asked Carlos if anything is better for Black people since his 1968 protest. Carlos told her, “I don't think that days have gotten better, I think things have cosmetically gotten better. They put a good surface or something, well, I'm not concerned about the surface, I'm concerned about beneath the surface.”

In another interview with Dave Zirin of the Nation, Carlos gave props to the St. Louis Rams players, who held their hands up. “How about those Rams? They may be under contract to play football, but greater than that, they have a right to care about humanity. They have the right to feel whether something is just or unjust. They are entitled to their opinions, most centrally that Michael Brown’s life should not have been taken. Asking them to just ‘shut up and play’ is like asking a human being to be paint on the wall. They have the right to say what they feel in their heart." He went on to tell Zirin, “A lot more athletes need to step up and speak up as well. These atrocities have been going on and we are saying enough is enough. I remember saying in 1968, you think I’m bad, just wait until this new generation comes out. I feel like that new generation is here at last.” (my emphasis)

From Attica to Ferguson

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, former NBA all-pro player, wrote an article in Time magazine about the Ferguson protests titled “White People Feel Targeted by the Ferguson Protests—Welcome to Our World.” In it, Kareem makes a very cogent point about the relationship between the 1971 Attica prison rebellion and the defiant protests in Ferguson. “I hope the chanting of ‘Ferguson! Ferguson!’ and the symbolic upraised arms of surrender will become a new cry of outrage over social injustice that will embed itself in our popular culture as deeply as Attica did. …the reason Attica makes such a poignant symbol 43 years later. The word isn’t about a specific prison and the terrible violence there; it’s about feeling unjustly imprisoned. Many African-Americans feel imprisoned by walls that are no less restrictive for being built by lack of educational and employment opportunity than by concrete and razor wire.”

Kareem goes on to say that “The people of Ferguson, and across the country, are not protesting against white people or police officers; they are protesting against the kind of racism that is so embedded in various social institutions that it’s invisible to all except those it affects. They are protesting a blind faith in any institution when the facts don’t warrant that faith.”


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